IMF-World Bank meet was weak: co-op head

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

The annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo earlier this month saw strong messages delivered on ending poverty and food scarcity, but the gathering failed to map out a solution to these issues, the president of the International Cooperative Alliance said.

Dame Pauline Green, the first female president of the Geneva-based global body for cooperatives, was in Tokyo this month to attend events related to the meetings.

Newly elected World Bank President Jim Yong Kim made some “crucially important remarks” over his organization’s will to end poverty, Green said in an interview with The Japan Times on Friday, adding that his words were “heartening.”

She also hailed the fact that global inequality was a key theme at some of the seminars and debates. But in regards to progress made, the ICA president said the outcome at Tokyo lacked tangible results.

Comparing the meeting with other confabs, such as the G-20, where solutions to the world’s problems are hard to arrive at, Green said the talks in Tokyo were anticlimactic.

“Overall, it was generally disappointing, especially considering the magnitude of the crisis, which has been so big.”

The meetings lacked “a strong political leadership needed to reach a collective solution” on global issues, she added.

With a membership of nearly 1 billion people across 96 countries, the ICA is one of the largest nongovernmental organizations in the world.

On the ongoing eurozone crisis, Green, who was a key member of the European Parliament in the 1990s, said the time is ripe for making a fundamental change in the way economic decisions are made.

“Putting people at the heart of the economy” instead of “trying to make a quick buck” is crucial, she said.

Mutual, cooperative institutions where one does not need to constantly worry about stock markets and investor pressure should be considered as an alternative measure to diversify the economy, she added.

On Japan’s involvement in ending global poverty and inequality, Green lauded Tokyo for its efforts, which include programs across Asia to aid cooperative agricultural development.

While some of the programs tend to be overlooked because Tokyo “does it quietly,” Green said that “Japan’s government and cooperatives are playing a crucial role.”

However, the Japanese government’s assistance to domestic cooperatives is falling short of expectations, she said.

“There is much that still needs to be done in Japan to allow the cooperative movement to maximize its input to the domestic Japanese economy,” she said, touching on her visit to disaster-struck Miyagi Prefecture in July 2011.

Although the local co-ops were eager to develop cooperatively owned community energy generation facilities, the slow deregulation of Japan’s electricity market has made this impossible. Local co-ops have been complaining that there are too many legal obstacles to move the project forward, Green said.